Malta has been bombarded with political messages in a month-long campaign that definitely felt way longer, but some of the more basic elements of a Maltese election seem to have been glossed over.
In case you’re still not too sure why we vote in numbers, and what it all means, here’s a quick and comprehensive explainer. You’re welcome.
How many people will be elected to Parliament?
It depends on the ratio by which the winning party takes the majority, but it’ll be an odd number and not less than 65.
The Parliament of Malta is composed of an odd number of members, and while it starts at 65, the number can increase to properly reflect the winning party’s majority. This is why you might’ve heard the term Proportional Representation System before, and the seats which are added to represent this proportion are aptly called constitutional seats.
For example, in light of the Labour Party’s landslide 36,000 vote win over PN in the last general election in 2013, the number of seats in Parliament went up to 69 to better reflect this win (39 to PL and 30 to PN). In November of last year, the Constitutional Court granted 2 extra seats to PN following mistakes committed in the counting process of the 2013 election. This meant that, for the first time in history, Parliament had 71 members.
How does someone get elected to Parliament?
Candidates need a special number of votes, and it’s all math, of course.
We have 13 districts in Malta (check how each district is divided here), and this is key to who gets elected how. In each district, the number of valid votes cast is divided by the number of available seats plus one. The resulting number is what is called the electoral quota, and that’s the magic number a candidate needs to reach to be elected.
Why does everyone keep mentioning the ‘Single Transferrable Vote System’, and what is it?
It’s how we vote in Malta, and it’s basically there to make sure your vote isn’t wasted.
Under the STV, voters rank their preferred candidates in numerical order (hence the 1s 2s, 3s, etc written on the ballot paper). During the first ballot count, only the first preferences are considered, and each ballot is ordered accordingly. A couple of candidates may reach the required quota by this count, and these candidates are elected.
What if a candidate has more votes than the quota?
This is where the STV comes in to make sure your vote doesn’t stop here.
If candidates have more than the quota, their surplus votes are transferred to other candidates, based on the second preference (that is, the 2s on the vote). Transferred votes might be enough to make new candidates reach the quota, and these candidates will join the other elected ones.
If nobody new is elected, the candidate with the least amount of votes is out of the race, and their votes are transferred in the same method. The process continues until all the seats are filled.
What is ‘cross-voting’, and does it make sense?
Cross-voting means not giving your votes to only one party, and it makes a lot of sense.
Believe it or not, even in such a mostly bipartisan country like Malta, our voting system actually encourages voters to not stick to one political party. Cross-voting simply means marking preferences to candidates from different parties.
Having said that, your vote’s first preference is seen as more than just a vote to a candidate, but in extension the party you want to see form a government.
In the case of cross-voting, the same exact procedure mentioned above happens. Thanks to the STV system, however, your vote goes to the candidates you really believe in.
All infographics by The Beast Collective.